I started Good to Great during Spring Break, and I walked around our condo professing that “good is the enemy of great” to anyone who would listen. My friends were pondering the significance of The Hunger Games while I was having a mini-epiphany. This one sentence really made the wheels start turning in my head for the whole break. I had never thought about life this way. Good really is what stands in the way of people becoming great. People are so complacent and perfectly fine with mediocrity. Why strive just to be good when you can be great? Good is what stands in the way of being the best. That, to me, though it might not be to everyone, was the biggest revelation out of the whole book.
After this mind-blowing epiphany, the obvious next step is to learn how to overcome goodness and turn it into greatness. All of the companies listed had one thing in common – the Level 5 Executive. This was another revelation. These people “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” These people are not money hungry, power hungry egomaniacs. They are humble and have professional drive. The stories in the book really illustrate how the leaders who were only looking after their own best interest and who did not care about the company whole heartedly were really one of the biggest obstacles in the way of becoming great. The great companies had leaders who made tough decisions, decisions not taken lightly, in order to better the company – even if it meant negative consequences personally. These people were humble and were not in their positions just to puff themselves up. This book is a good confirmation that hard work and integrity are what ultimately cultivate greatness, not a lack of character and under-the-table deals. This thought dovetails well with …And Dignity for All, in which conducting yourself with integrity and character are the main points.
One of my favorite ideas of the book, though, is that the right people are your absolute biggest asset. Collins’ discussion of how many companies just shift people up into places where they do not really fit, just because, was really truthful and thought provoking. If this is how a business is run, then people are not working in areas that fulfill them personally or professionally. This leads to loss of production in the long run, which we have discussed extensively in class. Having the right people, keeping them motivated, and making sure they are after the same goals that the company is after are crucial to the success of a company. Likewise, you cannot be everything, meaning you are not good at everything. In order to be an effective, great leader, you must take your talents and develop them and use them effectively. You cannot take on every task yourself. You must have the right people on the team to help you execute, which is one of the reasons why the right people are the most important asset.
The final important thing that I learned from Good to Great is that if you are a great leader, you must “confront the brutal facts of reality.” You have to take charge of situations and implement a plan of recovery. You have to get “the wrong people off of the bus.” You must utilize the “right people” in the recovery plan. As was prevalent in Despain’s book, teamwork is key. You will not accomplish anything without a motivated team behind you. If you have “the right people on the bus,” then they will be behind you because you are all working towards a common goal, the success of your organization.
I never would have thought that a revelation could happen in the first sentence of a book. Good to Great change that, however. If good is the enemy of great, then the way to conquer good is by removing people who are not performing and who are not behind the goals of the organization, making sure your team is comprised of the right people, and leading with humility and dedication to the success of your company. In essence, rise to the top of the leadership pyramid by putting the greater good of the company above yourself, and in exchange you both will succeed. -AD